I'd been strat-less for a few months since getting rid of my EJ Strat, which I didn't really bond with and which was too much money into a guitar that's basically a utility player for me.
However, some of the upcoming stuff I want to record needs strat sounds, so I went looking for a decent, inexpensive proper Strat.
For those not familiar, it's a 1983-84 Squier Stratocaster, part of the first wave of Japanese-made guitars that Fender sold in the USA. The models from those two years all have serials starting with "SQ", and that's how most people refer to them now.
These are distinquished from the earlier 1982-83 "JV" serials that were exacting '50s and '60s reissues sold in Japan and Europe, and from the later 1984-87 "E" serials that also had more retro features and were sold worldwide. I had an "E" series Squier Strat many years ago that I wish I'd kept.
In 1988, the Squier line switched to Korean production and cheap-ass hardware, but 1982-87 Squiers were FujiGen-made guitars that were basically just as good as the USA Fenders (except for some models that had cheaper pickups).
The SQ series Strats are interesting, because they were based on an early '70s Strat at a time (a couple years before Yngwie became a household name) when those were desperately unfashionable. Fender's thinking, I believe, was that the FujiGen guitars were so good that they didn't want to risk cannibalizing sales of the US-made Strats by having them be exactly the same.
Back in '83, I wanted one of these pretty badly but moved on and never worked on getting one.
For just under $500, I was able to get this one in decent shape with the original case and pickups upgraded to a Fender Custom Shop '69 set. The previous owner also rewired the bottom tone control from the middle to the bridge, which I prefer.
It's a nice lightweight Strat with a resonant, tone and just a fantastic neck profile with rolled fretboard edges. It's that medium flat C shape that you still see on some American Fenders.
I really like the '69 pickups so far. A lot of blues guys don't seem to like them because they're bright (particularly the bridge). But the neck pickup is one of the best strat ones I've tried, and the bridge PU is great with gain if you roll back the tone to about 7. And brighter pickups always sound better in the 2/4 positions.
I want to get a new trem arm, since the stock one with this guitar sits way too high unless you float the bridge up at a ridiculous angle. That's a pretty cheap part to get.
The other thing that takes getting used to is the 7.25" fretboard radius, but my Tele has that too, and it definitely gets you playing more "Strat-ish". It's not going to be my shredder, anyway.